Fabrizio Uguzzoni is president of Luxottica Wholesale North America, responsible for the strategic leadership and financial results of the group’s wholesale business in North America, inclusive of the U.S. and Canada. He joined Luxottica in 2009 as the group’s purchasing director of operations and later led group logistics for the company’s wholesale and retail businesses around the globe. Prior to his current role, he served as senior vice president of operations and finance for the North America Wholesale business since 2014, delivering strong sales and profit improvement, as well as elevating the customer experience.
JOHN SAILER: How do you view the overall optical business?
FABRIZIO UGUZZONI: The optical industry is a really attractive space right now. Two big factors are in play, particularly with premium optical: 500 million more consumers are expected to need vision correction by 2020, and product innovation, design and quality have never been more important. Our brand portfolio, from Ray-Ban and Oakley to Prada and Michael Kors, and our expertise in crafting the highest quality, beautiful eyewear will continue to be key advantages for us.
Beyond product, patients are expecting a better optical retail experience. We see this as another opportunity for ECPs to create a more seamless, personalized, knowledgeable and ultimately more profitable experience. It’s something we’ve been very focused on for the past three years, and we’ve built outstanding tools and services to empower our customers in this area.
SAILER: What trends do you see?
UGUZZONI: Three big trends we’re seeing in frames right now are round, metal and mixed material acetate/metal frames. One of my favorite styles this season is Ray-Ban’s Clubround, which combines the acetate and metal details of the classic Clubmaster with the on-trend Ray-Ban Round that has seen a resurgence in the last year. Metal is wildly popular in sun and optical. It’s lightweight, flattering on everyone and has an edge.
Lens technology is also a big part of the eyewear story today. Oakley’s Prizm lenses are revolutionary. They fine-tune vision for specific sports and environments by dramatically enhancing every color, revealing details that would typically be missed by the naked eye. In other words, Prizm makes it easier to spot changes in road surfaces, rocky terrain, track a ball in the sky or gauge the distance between the fairway green and the rough. The Ray-Ban Chromance collection is another great lens story for us. Chromance lenses calibrate everyday light to make the color spectrum brighter and clearer for the wearer.
SAILER: What are your strategies as you take on your new role?
UGUZZONI: Our partnership with the ECP market is at the heart of our strategy, with an aggressive investment in customer-centric programming, platforms and training to support it. According to a 2015 survey, Luxottica ranked highest in customer service among top frame manufacturers in the industry. Long-term, we want to ensure our 800-person salesforce has what it needs in terms of tools to stay number one.
The strength of our portfolio is central to our success. When it comes to Ray-Ban and Oakley, maintaining their brand equity is critical to the health of our business and our customers’ business. Ray-Ban and Oakley are clearly two pillars. They are not only the two fastest growing optical brands in the world, they’re also two of the most loved brands among Millennials, even outside the eyewear industry. We continue to invest heavily in their future through product innovation and channel expansion. We implemented a MAP policy to eliminate the devaluation of the brand, especially online, as well as an Authorized Retailer Agreement so that consumers and patients can be confident when they buy from a customer in our distribution network, they are getting 100% authentic Ray-Ban. We’ve also gotten much tougher and more effective in our anti-counterfeiting efforts.
SAILER: How would you describe the overall wholesale strategy?
UGUZZONI: Overall, our strategy is based on a customer-centric philosophy. We can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. What the neighborhood ECP in a Dallas suburb needs is different from what the department store in New York City or a small chain in Chicago need. The magic is in understanding and responding to what a particular eyewear consumer in a particular market wants at any particular time and how often.
SAILER: Any new services?
UGUZZONI: We’re particularly excited about STARS, which is an intelligent and automated system we developed for our customers. It customizes and optimizes the management of their assortment, supply planning and replenishment. We began piloting it last year with a few hundred customers, a mix of independents and chains. Those customers saw high double digit sales growth year-over-year as a result. We hope to add thousands of new doors in the coming year.
We’re also investing in MyLuxottica.com, and today 25% of orders are done through the platform. In terms of training, The Art of Retailing, which looks at how visual merchandising and more knowledgeable service can create a better storytelling and buying experience for the patient, is one of the most notable learning opportunities we’ve developed for customers. We’re in the middle of an extensive road show for it. We also offer training sessions on growing your sun Rx business and innovative lens technology.
SAILER: How do strategies differ for in-house brands vs. licensed brands?
UGUZZONI: Luxottica’s portfolio is incredibly broad and spans fashion, luxury, lifestyle and sport. And our audiences are so varied. So there is a ton of differentiation in terms of how the collections are conceived, introduced and marketed. Each brand has its own dedicated design and marketing teams and its own unique strategy. For the licensed brands, this means working very closely with the brand’s in-house teams. We’re fortunate having the opportunity to team up with the talent at some of the most iconic brands in the world.
SAILER: What market niches will you be serving in the future?
UGUZZONI: We see kids as a huge untapped and underserved market. Ray-Ban junior is growing double digits, and the future is promising. Kids are looking for more ways to express their personal style. The issue, and it’s a serious one, is that only one in seven children today have an eye exam before entering school. From a social perspective, we are all obligated to help raise awareness about the need for children to get their eyes checked. Through our work with OneSight, Think About Your Eyes and other partner organizations, Luxottica has done some amazing work, but we have a ways to go.
Prescription sun and polarization are other areas with a long runway ahead of them. Similar to kids, education is a big part of it. Most people still don’t understand the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful rays to the eyes. We offer guidance and training on how ECPs can get the conversation started with their patients on this.
We are always looking for opportunities that will bring a new competitive advantage to the business. When we identify an opportunity that makes strategic sense and complements our existing brands and businesses, we will capture it as we did with Valentino.
At the same time, we renewed our Prada, Burberry, D&G licenses last year, and we added Valentino. Our first Valentino collection will launch in January. The brand has never been hotter than it is today. We’re also leading in the luxury segment with the most prestigious brand, Chanel, and in the premium fashion segment with top two brands, Michael Kors and Coach. So we’re proudly moving on all cylinders.